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Pakistan’s foreign policy: Escaping India?

By Raza Rumi:

As Pakistan negotiates with a critical moment of its 64-year-old existence, there is nothing more urgent than to review its foreign policy goals and the assumptions that define them. It is an open secret that the unelected institutions of Pakistan for decades have designed controlled and implemented its foreign policy, often at variance with Pakistan’s own pragmatic self-interest. Such have been the contours of Pakistan’s foreign policy perspective, that the institutional interests of its all-powerful military and the allied intelligence complex dominate the definition and outcome of an imagined “national-interest”. Considering how Pakistan finds itself locked in a battle of nerves with the United States since the strike on Osama bin Laden’s compound in the garrison town of Abottabad, on May 2, 2011, there is perhaps no better time for its elites to review and redefine what passes for foreign policy. […]

October 17th, 2011|Culture, India, Pakistan, Published in The Friday Times|4 Comments

Pakistan: A failing society?

My recent op-ed:

A couple of weeks ago a conference at the Lahore School of Economics allowed me to pontificate on how Pakistan is fast turning into a failing society. The context was how fractured federalism and an unstable political system had resulted in the social exclusion of a majority of the population.

The net result has been that we are a society that is divisive with embedded violence all around. Much has been said about Pakistan as a failing or failed state. Such prognoses have been manufactured in the dominant capitals of the West. True, such claims are exaggerated and self-serving for they provide a tailored worldview that Pakistan is a place that needs to be ‘fixed’.

While we are cognisant of such imperatives, let us not be blind to our deeply iniquitous and un-just society that needs major healing, reconciliation and perhaps surgery. Pakistan from 1947 to 1971 could not become a cohesive society, as the cultural-political identity of the Eastern Wing, now Bangladesh, was never accepted. Efforts to create a uniform identity failed and ultimately our majority province severed all ties with us. Ironically, this was a province at the forefront of the Pakistan movement. […]

Muslimness – shifting boundaries

Muslimness is an elusive state of being. There are watertight strictures of the theological identity defined by men, interpreted as the Sharia, on the one hand; and the broad political and cultural sense of the self, on the other. Identity, in any case, is a messy affair: shifty, shifting and eventually, imagined. While 9/11 placed Muslims at the centre stage of global politics, the broth had already been simmering in the cauldrons of biased academe and pop reality mirrored through the blood-thirsty lens of corporate media.

So what is it to be a Muslim? An inflexible bag of rituals? Or a cultural sense of belonging or a deeper dogma ingrained in young minds? I have never considered myself anything but a believer, a ‘practicing Muslim’. This has never been at variance with my secular and inclusive pretensions, despite the fact that the clergy in my country considers secularism akin to atheism, a sort of mirror image of the Pakistani political foundation. The clerics translate secular as la-deen , at best irreligious, and at worst, godless.

Ironical that this business of religious identity is articulated in a land that was the crucible of the secular Indus Valley civilization, non-militant Buddhism and a peculiar version of South Asian Islam that spread via the Sufi khanqahs and was a sort of amalgam of the Central Asian with the ancient South Asian. Even more ironical is the reality, neglected and veiled, that lived Islam is located around dargahs , tribal codes and customs which are irreligious in their own way. But who cares? Referred to as the world’s most dangerous country, Pakistan, according to the pundits of global opinion, is a haven for Islamic terrorists. Collateral damage, therefore, is kosher and a necessity to undo the unstated part of the ‘axis of evil’.

Labels and more labels. On the global shelves such products sell well and work in favour of a war machine hungry for energy resources, territory and blood. […]

No priests needed – search of a Pakistani identity

With a demographic revolution in the making, a depressed and cynical youth is a time bomb that we are living with. Things will have to change, otherwise history has its own ways of effecting transformations that are not always peaceful or desirable

Contemporary Pakistani literature in the ‘age of terror’

I am posting the synopsis of my paper entitled Silhouetted Silences – contemporary Pakistani literature in the ‘age of terror’, that I presented at the SAARC writers’ festival held in Agra, India (March 13-17, 2009). The full paper needs to be edited and referenced so that will posted a little later.

Round my neck,
from time to time, there was the hallucination
of a noose, and now and then, the weight
of chains binding my feet.
Then one fine day
love came to drag me, bound and manacled,
into the same cavalcade as the others (Faiz)

Since the invasion of Afghanistan by the United States and the global hysteria about ‘terror’ and ‘terrorism’, Pakistan has faced the greatest of existential challenges after its dismemberment in 1971. As a frontline ally of the US in the war on terror, Pakistani society and polity have been engulfed by growing militancy and acts of violence commonly branded as terrorism. Whilst there is no single definition of ‘terrorism’, the mainstream media and policymakers – in the service of imperial rhetoric aimed to justify and perpetuate the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq – have established terrorism as the major threat to domestic and regional peace in South Asia. Acts of premeditated and organised violence in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have thus assumed a central place in discourse on regional cooperation or its converse: the rivalries between the constructed nation states and their irresponsible power-elites.

In this milieu, the South Asian citizens have been the victims of violence, uncertainty and acrimonies that have only led to exacerbation of poverty, inequality, ascendancy of militarism and war-mantra. All of this is taking place when globalization is relentlessly seeping into domestic economies, cultures and social systems. Where does this leave the writers and poets of the region who grapple with the complex, confusing and fast changing social and political realities? Whilst the community of South Asian writers – traditionally the forbearers of intellectual and political movements – is beleaguered by corporate media industry, it has struggled to respond to challenges that events have created. […]

March 26th, 2009|Pakistani Literature, Personal, South Asian Literature|6 Comments

Khusrau, Meera, Kabir: The Fluid Self

An essay contributed by the celebrated singer,writer and spiritualist Vidya Rao

I often ask myself the question why I choose, above all things, to sing, and then to sing a traditional gayaki like thumri. The images that are gleaned from its poetic texts are so often open to misunderstand: pining nayikas, heartless piyas, rakish Krishnas, divine Rams. I ask myself that question again today when tradition is in danger of being smothered by sectarianism, communal violence and a whole culture lies bleeding.
I turn to the music itself for my answer. It has never failed me before it does not fail me now. […]

Why I love Pakistan? Top 5 reasons

The Civilization

Pakistan is not a recent figment but a continuation of 5000 years of history: quite sheepishly, I admit, that I am an adherent of the view held by many historians that the Indus valley and the Indus man were always somewhat distinct from their brethren across the Indus. I do not wish to venture into this debate but I am proud as an inheritor of Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro and Mehrgarh (not strictly in this order) and this makes me feel rooted and connected to my soil as well as ancient human civilizations and cultures.

It also makes me happy that no matter how much the present-day media hysteria about Pakistan (and natives in general) diminishes my country and region, nothing can take away this heritage and high points of my ancestral culture. Pakistan is not just Indus civilization it is a hybrid cultural ethos: the Greek, Gandhara, the central Asian, Persian, Aryan and the Islamic influences merge into this river and define my soul how can I not be proud of this? […]

May 10th, 2007|Pakistan, Personal|0 Comments